The immediate reaction to the news that the Carolina Panthers signed offensive tackle Michael Oher is that the team has addressed their biggest need this offseason. Left tackle was a position of concern during the season and with the team not bringing back Byron Bell, the need for a left tackle increased significantly.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, options on the free agent market for left tackles were limited after the San Diego Chargers re-signed King Dunlap. To say a player who only played 11 games, is coming off a toe injury and had an overall rating of -11.3 on Pro Football Focus is one of the best options this free agency period shows just how bad the market is.
This is why, even though they have a veteran tackle, the offseason plan and specifically the NFL Draft shouldn’t change. The move to sign Oher is a great one and puts the Carolina Panthers in excellent position heading into the next two months.
In a majority of mock drafts, including the ones here at PantherInsider.com, the offensive tackle position seems to be the favorite for the team when they are on the clock at number 25 in the first round. However, now with Oher on board the team has a little more flexibility and go Best Player Available, which is in line with GM Dave Gettleman’s draft strategy.
This move certainly doesn’t stop the Panthers’ from drafting an offensive tackle, it actually may end up increasing the probability. Before Oher was signed, the team may have looked at a player who was more pro-ready to start Day 1 but have a lower ceiling. Now the team can look at a prospect like Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings, who has tremendous potential to be a left tackle but is very raw. He has only been playing on the offensive side of the ball for the past two years and was strictly a right tackle in this time.
Oher provides the team with tremendous flexibility now because he has experience playing both left and right tackle. He can start at either spot and if the team does draft a rookie that is capable to start Week 1, they now have depth like they didn’t at any point last season.
When Byron Bell and Nate Chandler suffered injuries the team was left in a tough position and was forced to turn to undrafted rookies (David Foucault) and players off practice squads (Mike Remmers). The pick-up of Remmers paid huge dividends, who played very well down the stretch but this is now something the team won’t have to worry about in 2015.
In the end, the signing of Michael Oher was a great move for the Panthers. It provides them a veteran presence at either offensive tackle position who is also only 28 years old. He entered the years with a ton of potential and there is still a chance for him to reach that.
However, this should not be the only move the Panthers make at the position. They should still add a player or two in the NFL Draft who has the potential of being a franchise left tackle.
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